Background: The objective of this study was to describe aspects of case study herds investigated by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (DAFF) in which animal welfare incidents occurred and to identify key performance indicators (KPIs) that can be monitored to enhance the Early Warning System (EWS). Despite an EWS being in place for a number of years, animal welfare incidents continue to occur. Questionnaires regarding welfare incidents were sent to Superintending Veterinary Inspectors (SVIs), resulting in 18 herds being chosen as case study herds, 12 of which had a clearly defined welfare incident date. For each study herd, data on six potential KPIs were extracted from DAFF databases. The KPIs for those herds with a clearly defined welfare incident date were studied for a consecutive four year window, with the fourth year being the 'incident year', when the welfare incident was disclosed. For study herds without a clearly defined welfare incident date, the KPIs were determined on a yearly basis between 2001 and 2009. Results: We found that the late registration of calves, the use of on-farm burial as a method of carcase disposal, an increasing number of moves to knackeries over time and records of animals moved to 'herd unknown' were notable on the case farms. Conclusion: Four KPIs were prominent on the case study farms and warrant further investigation in control herds to determine their potential to provide a framework for refining current systems of early warning and prevention.